Record 7 WPIAL teams heading to PIAA wrestling tournament

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022 | 8:40 PM


For the first time in PIAA team championship history, seven teams from the WPIAL will be at Hershey for the tournament, which begins Thursday at Giant Center.

Class 2A Burgettstown and Latrobe and Canon-McMillan in Class 3A earned trips to the state tournament with victories Monday in the preliminary round. The state team tournament began in 1999.

While Latrobe (68-6 against Carrick) and Canon-McMillan (45-14 at Cumberland Valley) posted easy victories, Burgettstown used a win by heavyweight Joey Baronick and a pin by Parker Sentipal for a dramatic 34-28 victory at Fort LeBoeuf.

It was Burgettstown’s first victory in the PIAA tournament.

The Blue Devils (15-1) will join WPIAL champion Quaker Valley (18-3) and runner-up Burrell in “Chocolatetown.”

The Wildcats (13-1) and Big Macs (12-5) will join three-time WPIAL champion Waynesburg and runner-up Connellsville.

Action begins at 2 p.m. when Burgettstown faces District 9 power Brookville (19-2) and Burrell (11-5) tangles with District 3 champion Bishop McDevitt (11-0). It’s unknown if Burgettstown sophomore Gaven Suica will be available. He has missed the pass three matches with an apparent foot injury.

Quaker Valley (18-3) will face District 11 runner-up Saucon Valley (20-2) at 4 p.m.

Latrobe begins its quest at 6 p.m. against District 1 champion Council Rock South (11-1). Also in the first Class 3A session, Connellsville (18-2) faces District 12 champion La Salle College (9-3) and Canon-McMillan will battle tournament favorite Bethlehem Catholic (11-0).

Waynesburg (16-0) will face Spring-Ford Dallastown (19-3) at 8 p.m.

Even though the Wildcats had an easy match Monday, Latrobe coach Mark Mears said he was impressed with the aggressiveness of Carrick.

“They didn’t back down from us,” Mears said. “That impressed me. The match allowed me to use some different wrestlers and rest some starters.”

Mears held Vinny Kilkeary (120 pounds), Jack Pletcher (152) and Tyler Lynch (189) from the match.

“We’re going to face a tough team right off the bat in Council Rock South,” Mears said. “We saw them at King of the Mountain, and we didn’t have Nate (Roth) or Gabe (Golden) in the lineup. If we do, we probably would have won the tournament.

“We match up well with them. We’re treating this as a business trip. It was important to get to Hershey so they can get used to the arena. They won’t be is awe of the place a month from now or next year if we make it back.”

Heavyweight Wyatt Held is expected in the lineup after missing the past four matches.

He wrestled against Carrick after being cleared from illness, which was not covid.

Connellsville won’t be at full strength. Senior Hunter Claycomb will miss the state tournament after suffering a knee injury before the semifinals and finals.

First-year Connellsville coach Bill Swink said he’s eager to see how his team bounces back after losing to Waynesburg in the WPIAL finals.

He said he team was flat after beating Latrobe in the semifinals.

“We treated it as a learning experience,” said Swink, who was a Hall of Fame coach in Virginia. “I’m looking for a better effort.”

Burrell coach Josh Shields also will be watching to see how his team responds after its tough loss to Quaker Valley in the Class 2A finals. The loss ended the Bucs 15-year run in the WPIAL.

The Bucs won seven of the 13 matches against Quaker Valley but gave up too many pins.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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